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Japan Y2K rollover marred by N-plant glitches

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TOKYO — Japan began the new millennium with no signs of major Y2K problems, but minor glitches, including several at nuclear power plants, marred its report card.

"Fortunately, there have thus far been no major problems in areas affecting the people's livelihood," Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi told a news conference carried live on television some 50 minutes after the new millennium began.

That was confirmed by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukushiro Nukaga some five hours later, but the government acknowledged that some minor problems had cropped up including malfunction of data monitoring systems at nuclear power plants.

Officials said the nation's key sectors, including electricity, telephones, aviation and nuclear power facilities were mostly trouble-free from problems that could be caused by computers unable to read the year 2000.

The Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan said there had been no reports of major disruption to power generation including nuclear power.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the country's largest power company, also said it detected no computer-related troubles with power supplies in the Tokyo area.

Japanese have been jittery about nuclear power problems following an accident in September at a processing plant that triggered a nuclear chain reaction.

Several equipment malfunctions were reported at nuclear plants after the new year began but the problems had no effect on power generation, local and company officials said.

Two were at the Shika nuclear power plant about 300 km (186 miles) northwest of Tokyo, run by Hokuriku Electric Power Co.

Officials reported problems with the plant's radiation monitoring system and a system used to send data on radiation emission and the state of the power plant to company headquarters and the government in case of emergencies.

An alarm for a system processing meteorological data at Tohoku Electric Power Co's Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi Prefecture also went off soon after midnight, but order was restored 10 minutes later with no disruptions to power generation, government officials said.

A system for transmitting data on the position of rods used to control nuclear reactions at the Fukushima No 2 power plant north of Tokyo, run by TEPCO, did not send data to a computer screen although the data was present in the computer itself, a company spokesman said.

He said the company had verified the position of the rods through other means and the plant continued to operate normally.

And in Fukui, western Japan, Kansai Electric Power Co's Takahama nuclear power plant failed to transmit data on radiation levels from its two monitoring points to the Kyoto prefectural office, where the data was being surveyed, the company said.

The transmission system was halted for about five hours until it was restored to normal operation, and checks are still underway to determine if the glitch was Y2K-related.

Japan's flagship carrier, Japan Airlines Co Ltd, said there were no Y2K irregularities after the rollover to the new year in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) at 0900 a.m. local time.

The airline said in a statement that flight operations were normal and conditions at all domestic and overseas airports it served were reported normal.

But a Japanese computer system that collates flight and weather information for small planes and helicopters has stopped functioning, a Transport Ministry official said.

He said that the system is used by private pilots to log their flight plans using personal computers at five domestic airports around Japan and to receive weather updates.

The problems are not affecting the air traffic control systems in Japan and no there are indications yet that they are Y2K related.